Perception of climate change
Confusion about the causes of climate change and climate skepticism among a minority, but persistent
In all countries, climate change has already had very concrete effects, already observed in the interviewees’ region (78%), notably in the Southern countries: South America (91%), the Middle East, Africa (82%) and Asia (84%). The most feared risk is by far the increase in extreme climate events (61%), the most visible “expression” of climate change ahead of pollution and desertification. Note that the development of infectious diseases has leaped forward by 12 points and now ranks 5th among climate-change-related risks. This awareness linked to Covid is sharpest in Asia, but not in the countries counting the most deaths per inhabitant (Belgium, USA, Brazil…).
To explain this phenomena, greenhouse gases are only recognized by 6 out of 10 people as a cause of climate change, especially in the most developed countries, a score that doubtless expresses an as yet incomplete understanding – in any case among the 40% who did not mention GG – of the warming mechanism. The fact that 46% blame air pollution relates to continued confusion between CO2 and pollution. In contrast, deforestation was quoted by “only” 42% of respondents. These also, wrongly, attribute climate change to other phenomena, such as the hole in the ozone layer (32% globally) or a natural phenomenon of warming of the planet (30%). So climate change is clearly still a phenomenon that populations are struggling to grasp.
Hence, one third (32% + 1 point compared to 2019) of respondents on a global level do not associate climate change with a phenomenon caused by human activity, making them climate skeptics, admittedly less determined than those (few in number: 7%) who deny the phenomenon’s very existence. Climate skepticism remains localized, with the USA becoming the most climate-skeptic country in the world: 52% of Americans do not believe in climate change caused by human activity (+ 7 points compared to 2019). They are closely followed by Saudi Arabia (51%), Norway (50%) and Australia (43%): in the latter country, the wildfires that ravaged the country for months failed to shake convictions among climate skeptics. Note also that these countries are all leaders in oil or gas production. The European Union, for its part, shows relatively homogeneous scores, with Italy and Spain being the most convinced of the human origin of climate change (75%) and Germany the least convinced at 64% (France: 68%).
All in all, while climate-skepticism is particularly strong in a few countries, this appears to concern a “substantial minority” in almost all countries, with the lowest rates at a little under 20% in Colombia, Mexico and South Korea.
To give another example, when it comes to the question of whether a link exists between epidemic and environment (in the sense that the former would be due to the negative impact of human activity on the latter), the western countries view things very differently from the rest of the world. The first group distance the Covid-19 / environment link, headed up by: Norway (37% of its population think that a link exists), Australia (38%), Sweden (40%), with France and Germany coming close behind, both at 41%. The Southern countries on the other hand assert that this link does exist, with a high level of conviction, notably 88% in China, 85% in Turkey, 83% in India and 81% in Colombia.
Another phenomenon can decrease global mobilization in favor of the climate: only half of populations think that climate change has only negative consequences, while 38% think that climate change can also have positive effects: that is the case both in Northern countries like Canada (44%), Sweden (51%) and Norway (61%), but also in Southern countries like Nigeria (53%), South Korea (51%), Saudi Arabia (46%) and the United Arab Emirates (43%), which tends to show that the climate isn’t influencing this perception.